Immediate past national chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) which merged with other parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, in this exclusive interview culled from Sunday Trust, speaks about the reason behind party’s officials’ visit to former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida in Minna, the claim by the Presidency that the APC is made up of strange bedfellows and how the party hopes to entrench democratic ideals.
Why did the leaders of APC go to IBB immediately after the registration?
Don’t forget that political parties will be looking for members, ideas and all forms of support. If a party goes to somebody who has been a Head of State, who has governed this country, I think it’s okay. I believe that the party will reach out to all Nigerians. What is before us now; all those who were in ANPP, ACN, CPC, and then the groups from the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) that came together to form APC are automatic members. But we are now interested in going out to bring in more Nigerians.
Are you saying that they are wooing the IBB to join the party?
There is nothing wrong if he decides to join the party. We know where he belongs to. Should he decide to join the party, it will be a very good thing. He is somebody who has governed the country. He understands the problem of the nation. He has a lot of experience that can be very useful in anything that involves how we can improve on the wellbeing of our nation and Nigeria.
Your critics will say that the coming together of ANPP, CPC and ACN is that of strange bedfellows. How will you respond to this proposition? How will you ensure that various interests do not hamper the focus of the APC?
Those who say that I think they should think again. If you look at the manifestoes of those old parties, you will find out that they all had very progressive ideologies. It is actually the manifesto that will show the difference between one party and the other. So, we are parties that are thinking alike. And if you remember, the CPC came out of ANPP. And then the AD gave rise to AC. And AC gave rise to ACN. If you may remember, the very first day that APC was to be shown to Nigerians, the leadership of AD were brought in to be part of APC. It was just some disagreements that made them left. So, we have been the same people. Look at the Joint Merger Committee, the Chairman of ANPP Merger Committee was Governor Shekarau. The Chairman of ACN was Chief Tom Ikimi and the Chairman of CPC was former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State Garba Gadi. Garba Gadi was in ANPP. He ran for office of Governor of Bauchi State before he left for CPC. Chief Tom Ikimi was in APP before he left. So, you can see there isn’t really any basis for any person to make that comment. They have been making this comment. And we have been telling them that it’s not correct.
When you talk about internal democracy, one thing usually comes to mind. The ACN and the CPC are thought to be controlled by individuals. Don’t you think that issues like imposition of candidates can still come up in APC?
No. What you can use to judge how APC will function is its Constitution. If you look our Constitution, as far as nomination is concerned, like I said even when you have a consensus candidate, there will still be a Yes-or-No Vote. We have said that all our primaries should be open and should be conducted in accordance with our Constitution. For example, if you are worried, I gave example of sugar or even salt. The two are white. But once you put them in water, you don’t see anything again. So, judge APC by its Constitution. I don’t know why everybody is always talking of ACN or CPC. They don’t even talk of ANPP. ANPP; if you look at our Constitution, it’s very clear that the National Chairman is the head of the party. All our primaries, INEC and journalists used to witness them. But the Constitution of the APC, which is the most important thing, is what I have told you. And the document is there with INEC. We are going to have internal democracy.
If you look at Nigeria today, the country is deeply divided along ethnic or religious line. Some people have concluded that there is nothing APC can do to win the South-east and the South-south because the two zones are President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP. Some say the North and the South-west are for APC.